q Merce Cunningham: The only way to do it is to do it | Anne Hodgson

Merce Cunningham: The only way to do it is to do it

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Merce Cunningham (April 16, 1919 – July 26, 2009) was a choreographer who shaped the American avant-garde arts scene for over 60 years. Cunningham worked closely with composer John Cage, his longtime partner, and with visual artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Bruce Nauman, designer Romeo Gigli and architect Benedetta Tagliabue. His  YouTube channel features “Beach Birds 1”:

Though he was in a wheelchair in later years, he premiered a “birthday” piece called “Nearly Ninety” this April. It was set to new music from Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Sonic Youth, and Japanese composer Takehisa Kosugi. Art blogger Artravels made a film:

Merce Cunningham:

  • “The only way to do it is to do it.”
  • “I was told that I had to give grades to the students, which I wasn’t particularly interested in doing.”
  • “My dance classes were open to anybody, my only stipulation was that they had to come to the class every day.”
  • “The most essential thing in dance discipline is devotion, the steadfast and willing devotion to the labor that makes the classwork not a gymnastic hour and a half, or at the lowest level, a daily drudgery, but a devotion that allows the classroom discipline to become moments of dancing too…”
  • “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls.”


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